THE FILTHY HOBIT
Fumidus sordidus squalor
RANGE: The Filthy Hobit is everywhere, but he prefers areas officially or socially designated NO SMOKING, confined spaces such as elevators and men’s rooms, all public means of transportation, hospital rooms, small restaurants, crowds, and your place.
HABITS: A spark, a flash, a puff of smoke . . . the promise of pleasure, the thrill of strong desire and, afterward, a lingering presence, and a sense of unfulfillment. . . irradicable traces left behind, one lung chests, sudden losses of health, homes mysteriously burning down . . . these are the works and pomps of a most odious fairy creature. To nonsmokers, the Filthy Hobit is a nuisance, especially to nonsmokers with a white shag carpet, a sensitive pet, or the sort of allergies that might (or might not) be symptoms of severe sexual repression. Offended by the insalubrious heap of butts, the fetid breath, the stench of a Cuban cigar, the asphyxiating cloud of. a pungent pipe, and the scorch mark of the veneer, they believe themselves to be the principal victims of the Filthy Hobit. How wrong they are! The Filthy Hobit is the true bane of the (somewhat shortened) existence of his own devotees, the Smokers. It is they who, unable to locate an ashtray, must befoul their cuffs and pockets, they whose teeth and fingers turn amber in deference to his filthy ways, they who halfway through the greatest film ever produced, concert ever performed, exhibit ever staged, or love ever made, become distracted—nay obsessed—by the thought of having a cigarette. And it is the Hobit who always hides the ashtrays, who inspires his addicted legions to light the wrong end of a filter tip, and who makes matches disappear. It is he who inspires his victims to use the gas stove and burn their eyebrows off. The Hobit it is who deludes the chronic cougher into believing there is one left in his or her pack, until he or she gets home, and there isn’t, and he or she spends a sleepless night searching behind sofa cushions, foraging through the trash for a butt with a drag or two left in it. . . .
HISTORY: Filthy is an indigenous American creature, known to the native tribes as To-Ba-Ko, which we might translate as Dragon, the Tragic Puff. Outraged at the Europeans’ treatment of his native friends, he has carried out a four-century-long campaign of revenge, by afflicting upon their descendants wheezes, mattress fires, withdrawal symptoms, catarrh, yellow fingers and cancer.
SPOTTER’S TIPS: The desperate look in the eyes of a man patting all his pockets, or a woman turning her pock-etbook inside out. A pile of ash in the corner of a window sill—like a house-flies’ crematorium. A waste basket bursting into flame. And a hollow, bitter laugh that sounds, curiously, not unlike a coughing fit.